Are We an Industry on the Rebound?

I recently had the privilege of delivering an address at the ASNT’s Fall Conference in Orlando, Florida. The topic of my speech was very optimistic:  NDT is an industry on the rebound.  I was able to back up this assertion with preliminary results from PQNDT’s annual NDT Salary & Benefits Survey.

For those who may be unfamiliar with our survey, we poll NDT and Quality Inspection personnel from across the U.S. to measure such criteria as compensation, benefits received, and employment status. We then analyze the data across key industries and geographic regions, and also break it out by certification levels.

While the data I was able to present in Orlando was preliminary, it did show clear signs that NDT industry and hiring activities are improving substantially since the Great Recession.

During my speech I asked and answered six key questions:

  1. Are we an industry on the rebound? – The NDT and Quality Inspection field is clearly out-performing the national economy with unemployment approximately 5.5%.   One significant change is a shift in the balance of employment from contractors to full-time. Over the past few years many companies were reluctant to commit to hiring full-time, worried about the volume of work that could be sustained. They hedged their bets by hiring contractors. Now, however, employers are more confident in a more steady flow of work and are bringing back more full-time people.
  2. What challenges does this present to employers? – During the depths of the recession there were more NDT professionals seeking employment than there were available openings. Employers had their pick of workers, and were often able to hire experienced people at lower wages than in previous years. Our surveys during 2008-2010 showed that many workers took pay cuts in order secure employment. But now that the pace of the economy has picked up, the tide has shifted and qualified NDT people are harder to come by. That means a more prolonged and involved search for the right person, and a more generous salary and benefits package to entice them.
  3. What challenges does this present to employees? – It is not all good news for employees in NDT and Quality Inspection. Not all industries or geographic areas are bouncing back as quickly as others. Our early survey results demonstrate dramatically the importance and value of gaining additional certifications and skills. Level II and Level III NDT personnel earn significantly more money than less experienced workers.
  4. What job opportunities are available? – Where many NDT and Quality Inspection workers in the past few years were desperate for work of any kind, there are more choices and options opening up every day as the industry climbs out of its state of lethargy. The key is to make your resume available to as many employers as possible, then consider offers carefully and not jump at the first one you receive.
  5. Is the recovery touching all regions? – NDT workers who are willing to relocate may find more job openings in the southern and south central regions of the United States, while the Great Lakes and north central areas are still struggling to emerge from the recession.
  6. Is the recovery reaching all industries? – Not all. Industries such as construction, which saw reductions in employment over the past few years, are seeing a jump in activity. But other industries such as the shipbuilding industry are lagging.

What may be most important is the fact that people within the industry feel things are getting better. We ask several questions related to the overall economy, job security and employment prospects. Across all industries, both full-time employees and contractors are more positive in their outlook for the future.

The full results of our 2012 NDT Salary & Benefits Survey should be available on our website ( in the next few weeks. We think you’ll find the data interesting and helpful for your own career.

Michael Serabian is president of PQNDT, Inc., the NDT and Quality Inspection industry’s leading personnel recruitment and placement agency. For additional information, please contact him at (800) 736-3841, or visit our web site at